The other Office 365 is available for your school

For collaborative classroom use by teachers and students, Microsoft has a special edition of Office 365

School technology has certainly come a long way since I was a student in ... well, a while ago. We still had chalkboards, not whiteboards. We had those overhead projectors to display the contents of plastic sheets, not a computer-driven projector and PowerPoints. And there were no online classes.

So much has changed. Classrooms are now increasingly digital. 

For its part, Microsoft has Office 365 Education, which is free for both teachers and students at an academic institution. If you're supporting a school's technology, here are the Microsoft tools to be aware of.

Microsoft Classroom lets teachers manage classes and assignment workflows. They can use the online application to create new class materials or use materials they already have in Word and PowerPoint, as well as providing access to materials to their students. Classroom can issue assignments, provide a class calendar, and provide a collaboration space for email discussions in Outlook, notes and comments in OneNote, and file sharing in SharePoint.

OneNote Class Notebook (compatible with the 2013 and 2016 editions of OneNote) gives students their own private notebooks (shared with the teacher), such as for teachers to provide grades and feedback in.

School Data Sync lets teachers keep their student lists (and thus student access to Classroom tools) up to date for each class, through integration with a variety of directories, from a simple CSV list to a full-blown student information systems.

Schools with deep pockets may also benefit from some of Microsoft's hardware, such as the Surface Hub, a Windows 10 wall system, for high-tech whiteboarding and bulletin boards, and HoloLens virtual reality googles, such as for virtual field trips.

Microsoft's Office 365 education tools are aimed at schools, but there are also good tools available from other providers for those who are home-schooled, such as ABC Mouse and Time4Learning.

Computers have been in the classroom since the first Apple IIs and IBM PCs. But the technology has advanced as dramatically in education as it has advanced in the workplace and in the home. In Microsoft's case, the advantages of Office 365 in business are being echoed by the advantages of Office 365 Education in schools.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.